Labor Day Weekend Fun in Oregon

We had a great Labor Day weekend exploring and learning more about our new home. We had a more ideas on how to spend our time than we had time, and I’m happy to share with you some of our fun.

First, we hit downtown Portland. We started by enjoying lunch at Veritable Quandry, a lovely spot with great outdoor seating. The service was top notch, the outdoor seating was beautiful, and the food was fresh and good. After lunch we took a short 1.5 mile walk over to the Pearl District and spent some time at Art in the Pearl, a local arts and crafts festival, exploring a diverse selection of art from West Coast artists.

We then walked over to the Willamette River to enjoy the views of the river and some people watching. There were a lot of people out bike riding, walking, skateboarding and dancing. Yes, you read that right, dancing. For those that know me well, you will know that I love to watch people dancing: skilled professionals, amateur dancers, movies or TV shows about about dancing. One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. I love it mostly because of the skill and passion the dancers bring to their craft, but I also think it’s because they are all absolutely focused on fulfilling their dreams of being dancers. I love seeing people working to fulfill their dreams. On this sunny day in downtown Portland a group of about ten teenagers had taped down cardboard to the sidewalk and brought a speaker. “The dance crew” was taking turns showing off their dance moves. It was so much fun watching them and it felt a little like Cat Deely, host of SYTYCD, might just walk up and start interviewing one of the kids. OK, so that part was all fantasy, but it was a lot of fun to watch, see and feel the energy it brought to the other people down at the waterfront.

Captain from our boat tour chatting with all of us.

The next day we returned to the waterfront for an Outrageous Jet Boat Tour of Portland’s Bridges. I’ve been especially interested in the bridges here in Portland, because there are so many and it has resulted in one of the city’s nicknames “Bridgetown.” The Portland area has eleven bridges over the Willamette River with a twelfth currently under construction and three over the Columbia River. The tour would take us under most of the bridges and provide a short amount of information/history about each. It turns out that what made it “outrageous” was we would travel about 35 mph in order to have enough time see everything.

The bridges were built from the early 1900’s up through 1982 (and one more still being built in 2012). They each have a distinct style and purpose and it turns out that some of the bridges are specifically owned and used by the railroad companies. There is lots of fascinating history that’s fun for me to learn about the bridges. In the meantime, I’ll just keep using them as a means to get to and from my place of employment and fun exploration of the city.

Incredible sparkling wine from Argyle Wineries.

On Labor Day we took the opportunity to sleep in and then decided to do some wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. We live about 20 miles from wine country (Dundee, OR) and some of the best Pinot Noir in the country. Our first stop of the day was Argyle Winery to do some sparkling wine tasting. The tasting room was hopping with locals and out of town visitors all anxious to try the award winning sparkling wines and pinots. after the tasting we asked the man behind the counter if he had any recommendations for our next stop. He gave us about five other suggestions and put a lot of emphasis on getting out to see Vidon Vineyards.

Vidon Vineyards is in Newberg, OR just a short drive  from Dundee. The drive through the country is gorgeous and we arrived at the vineyard and entered the tasting room to be greeted by Don. Don is the eighty-one year old NASA astrophysicist retiree who started the vineyard with his wife in 1999. He grew up in North Dakota and spent time in France during his military service and knew that one day he wanted to own a vineyard. The wine was tremendous and only enhanced by Don’s bright personalized touch with each guest that arrived.

We lingered for awhile and enjoyed the gorgeous day and view. We decided we needed to come back to this vineyard, so we became wine club members and left with some wine in the boot of our Mini Cooper. Driving back to Portland we talked about how fun the day had been and how exciting it is to be so close to wine country. We are already planning our next trip and I’m appreciating all of the dreamers (of the dancing and astrophysicist variety) that I keep meeting in Oregon.


Keep Portland Weird- No Mosquitoes

Portland has a slogan that says, “Keep Portland Weird” and you will see it around the city on bumper stickers, t-shirts and even murals on buildings. Based on what I have read, it was created to try and help local businesses thrive by bringing people into the city to eat and shop. In spite of why the slogan was created (or stolen as residents of Austin,TX might say) it has also created conversation within the city about what or who is weird or unusual. One example of this is the Naked Bike Ride, an annual event that finds itself receiving national news coverage because of the large number of participants and the general wackiness of the event.

When I reference things that I find “weird” it may also include oddities or differences to my lifestyle living in the Twin Cities. This week I have another weird observation of my new home. I'm calling this phenomenon phantom mosquitos.

Portland, Oregon is known to NOT have mosquitoes. If you talk to a native Portlander about the lack of mosquitoes they will struggle to remember times when they have ever been bitten by a mosquito. When we talked to our landlady about it she could remember having a couple of mosquito bites in her life (she's in her sixties). This was a pretty exciting perk of living in the city and I finally feel like I can sit outside during the evening and truly enjoy any event without having to spray on a thick layer of stinky mosquito spray. Here's where it gets weird. Each time I sit outside in the evening I start swatting my legs and arms out of habit. I'm sure it looks strange to those around me, but it's almost like my brain has a mosquito timer and at the moment I would normally start being bothered by mosquitoes in Minnesota, my arms start swatting and my legs start jumping. There are no mosquitoes or other bugs around but my mind is convinced I am being bitten. I'm wondering how long it will take for my brain to reset and let go of the “phantom mosquito” memories it has from Minnesota. I may swat at them for awhile, but I'll still enjoy knowing they aren't really there. It's weird but wonderful—one more reason I love my new city, Portland, OR.

Unexpected Adventure in Troutdale- McMenamins Edgefield

One of the most exciting things for me about being in a new city is that almost everything is a new adventure. Even something a simple as grocery shopping or finding a dry cleaner brings you to a new part of town with new shops, restaurants and historical spots to explore. This past week was no exception and an unexpected adventure was found in Troutdale, Oregon.

Funny sign on door where we picked up our Mini Cooper

In the process of making our move to Portland, OR, we made a decision to ship one of our vehicles so we could make the cross-country drive together in one car. The shipped car arrived in Oregon and we needed to coordinate a pickup in Troutdale, OR at the local DAS (Dependable Auto Shippers). Troutdale, OR is about 15 miles northeast of Portland, but because of a traffic accident it took us almost an hour to get there. We picked up “Astrid” the Mini Cooper, who made it safe and sound from Minnesota and we decided that in order to avoid further traffic headaches we would find a place to sit down and enjoy an early dinner.

I pulled out my iPhone and used the Urbanspoon app to look for restaurants rated highly in the area. I found one fairly close by called: Black Rabbit Restaurant & Bar and we set off to the restaurant. Minutes later my g.p.s. brought me to the restaurant and it can only be described as a large compound with vineyard out front. We wandered to what appeared to be the front of the “main building” and walked in to find Black Rabbit Restaurant, which wasn’t open for another hour. It was then that we stopped and looked around a bit a realized that we were in a very old, beautiful building that not only had a restaurant, but also was lodging.

I grabbed a map of the complex and was surprised to see all that encompassed McMenamins Edgefield: twenty-six different buildings on seventy-four acres of land. It is a historic site, built in 1911 as the county poor farm. It was a self-sustaining farm that sold surplus produce on the open market for years. During the Great Depression the population soared to over six hundred and the produce being sold was then complimented by a plethora of arts and crafts being made by the unemployed craftsmen and artisans living at the complex. During the 1940’s more Americans found work due to WWII and Edgefield saw a decline in residents. It was at this time that they started offering rehabilitation and nursing home services. Edgefield in the 1970s saw fewer incoming patients as private nursing homes and in-home care became more accessible with the rise of Welfare and Medicaid. A shrinking population and a complex of aging buildings in need of daunting repairs forced the decision to close the old poor farm. In April 1982, the last patients were relocated and the place was locked up.

The complex survived, but under duress of the elements and vandalism, became decrepit. Finally, Mike and Brian McMenamin saw the potential of the location and after an arduous journey they developed a vision for McMenamins Edgewood and developed it into what it has become today. The seventy-four acres encompass a main lodge with over a hundred guest rooms, multiple restaurants and bars, vineyard, distillery, brewery, vegetable garden, winery and tasting room, movie theatre, amphitheater, gift shops, spa and soaking pool and two par-3 golf courses.

We ended up having dinner at the Power Station Pub. The building had provided heat and electricity to the property in the early days and during the nursing home era had served as a laundry facility. The food was fairly typical pub food with a bit more vegetarian options than normally seen at a pub. We also enjoyed some of the well known McMenamin beer that had been brewed on site with our meal.

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend at Edgefield this trip, but because of this lovely, unexpected adventure we are already talking about spending a weekend at the complex sometime in the future so we can explore it and the surrounding area even more!


New Home and New Job: Week One!

It was a busy first week in Portland, OR. Grocery shopping, Target shopping, unpacking, visiting with family and starting a new job. The neighborhood we are living in is called “Sunnyside” and it is filled with restaurants, cafes, coffee/tea shops, and independent retail shops and the exploration so far has been fun. It was an amazing and exhausting first week in our new home.

I feel like a visitor in my new home and city and wonder when that feeling will shift. I am completely discombobulated when I'm trying to navigate by car or on foot and am grateful to have GPS In my car and Google Maps on my phone.

I'm starting a list of “weird” things I observe in my new city and thought I'd share one with you tonight: Windows Open With No Screens. Yes, you read that right, this practice is rampant throughout the city, people keeping their windows and doors open with no screens. Of course, there are fewer bugs here than in MN, but seriously. I just can't adjust to this practice yet. The flies love living indoors and I find that pretty gross. For this woman with MN roots, the screens will stay on the windows and doors closed unless screened.

The other huge change this week is I started my new job as Regional Vice President of Coaching and Client Services at InsideTrack. It was a fun and fulfilling week, filled with new people and lots of new information. It's been exactly one year and one month since I left Capella University for my personal sabbatical and although my time off was AMAZING, I was ready to get back to work.

My first interaction with InsideTrack was over three years ago during a pilot at Capella University. I remember going home after the second or third meeting and telling my husband how much I really enjoyed interacting with the people from InsideTrack. I said, “This is the first time in eight years that I have even found another company interesting. I wish they were based in the Twin Cities, so I could try and pursue a position with their company.” I loved the energy, integrity and enthusiasm they brought to every conversation and I loved their mission of helping students graduate through personal coaching.

View from my office window.

Well, fast forward to about 2 months ago while we were in the throes of planning and packing for our big move to Oregon. I took some time to set up specific job searches on and a position with InsideTrack appeared and looked very interesting. I applied, contacted a colleague from the company and let him know I had submitted my resume and then waited. A few weeks later the interviews started and I had an intense series of Skype and in person interviews. I'm now the most recent Regional Vice President of Coaching and Client Services at InsideTrack.

I'm happy to be working and even happier to be working at a company that is exciting, has a strong mission and a great culture. 2012 just keeps getting better and better.


We Made It to Portland!

We successfully navigated over 1700 miles across country and are now sitting in what will be our home for the next 6 months, drinking a local beer and just relaxing for a few minutes—until the next errand or chore needs to be done.

The drive was great at some points (seeing the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood as we approached Portland) and challenging during others. The biggest challenge was the cats. . . they just don't like traveling. Even after Xanax doses where they were stumbling around the hotel room, one of them would whine and cry during the car drive. Good news is that we don't plan on bringing them on any long road trips in the foreseeable future.

My husband did a great job packing up the back of the VW and we had full visibility while driving and all of the things we needed each night were super accessible. We stayed at a hotel chain called, La Quinta which allows pets with no additional fees. We would drive between 7-9 hours each day, stop to stretch/have lunch and then drive until we got to the hotel and immediately start unloading the car. We took turns driving and by the time we got to our destination were usually exhausted after the full day of sitting in the car and driving. Most of the drive was pretty scenery but uneventful. Some of it was gorgeous driving and bit stressful driving through mountain passes. It was fun to see how beautiful Montana and Idaho were. I wish we would have been driving without animals and could have stopped and enjoyed the view a bit.

My husband made a really cool time lapse video of our journey and you can live our trip (in much faster form) here:


Our clothes and other personal items were all shipped UPS and had some sort of “train delay” in Montana. They were supposed to arrive on Friday and are expected to be delivered on Monday now if there are no other delays. I start work at my new job on Monday and I have enough business casual clothes to get me through Monday, so if no UPS, I'll have to go shopping for clothes, oh bummer :-). We ran a bunch of errands today (Costco, Target, some groceries) and this helps us feel like the rental is more “our place.”

Chenille the Devon Rex cat enjoying the sun.

The cats are acclimating well to the new space. Much of the furniture and furnishings in the house are rattan/wicker, which is a bummer since the cats think it is all cat scratchers for them. We have to keep scolding them to stop scratching on the furniture.

I don't know if you are following the weather out here, but it appears that we brought the HOT Twin Cities weather with us. The city is under a heat watch and everyone is kind of excited about it because it is so uncommon. Today in the high eighties and tomorrow in the high nineties. Right now Shinobi the cat is sitting next to a french door taking a nap in the sun. I overheard my husband saying to him, “Enjoy it, but don't get too used to seeing the sun buddy.” Ha! The temps will be back to the high 70's next week, like normal.

Fresh fruit just picked

One of the things we are already excited about is all of the fresh produce and other items, being sold on the street in nearly every neighborhood. Blueberries, strawberries, plums, apricots, cherries and boysenberries. They all taste amazing and each pint only $2.50. YAY! We love fresh and flavorful produce. The yard of our house has some produce growing and I can see tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries and basil that we will be able to harvest. There is also a fig tree that looks like it's just about ready to start providing us with some fresh figs.

I'm off to organize a bit more and then dinner and maybe a movie in the park. We saw they are screening Citizen Kane less than a mile from our place and depending on how we feel we may go watch the film (remember no mosquitoes here).


No Sleeping Tonight

I've never had much problem with sleeping, except during high stress times in my life. I didn't think I was stressed right now, as it's an exciting time in my life as we prepare to move to Portland, OR from St. Paul, MN, but tonight showed me otherwise. I was laying in bed and unable to slow my mind down. Thoughts were buzzing through my mind like a high speed slideshow: What else do I need to sell? What needs to be brought to GoodWill? Who is picking up items tomorrow? What else can I start packing for shipment? Who else do I need to connect with for lunch or happy hour before we leave? Have I set up cancelation on all of the utilities? Oh shoot, I still need to change our address with everyone. etc, etc, etc..

When I was a kid and I couldn't sleep I would lay on my back and hang half of my body off the bed, touching my head to the floor. The blood would rush to my head and somehow this would calm all of the thoughts, almost push them out of my mind and I could sleep. This method now sounds like a guaranteed headache so as an adult, on the rare occasion that I have sleep troubles, I usually find that getting up and reading or writing does the trick and I'm ready to sleep in minutes. Not tonight. I'm writing this post in hopes that my mind will calm and I'll be able to sleep. So far it doesn't seem to be helping. I just noticed my legs jittering beneath the desk, like I've been drinking multiple cups of coffee.

I think this is a two-fold reaction. First, I had dinner with a wonderful friend tonight and I'm sad that we'll be far apart. I know we will stay connected, but I also know it will be harder (it's already hard and we live only a few miles apart). As happy I am to be following my dream of moving, I'm feeling the reality of leaving people I love. Secondly, I got a phone call during dinner from a prospective employer in Portland. I'm excited and anxious to find out if they are calling with an offer or a rejection. Either way it's now late and the follow up call is going to have to wait until tomorrow morning.

So these two things and just the sheer volume of things to do in the next six days is messing with my sleep schedule. I got a nice email from the woman in Portland that we will renting from. She said, “I think that we are both in similar states of being/doing: Getting a phenomenal amount of work and hanging out with people we love in a short period of time. Compressed life….. ” I like the expression “compressed life” and it does clearly describe what is happening in my life right now. It's no wonder I can't sleep.

Good night to all.


Selling our Home, Moving and our Cats

Many people have asked me how our animals coped during the sale of our home and additionally, how they are doing now, living in a new space.

As we were selling our home and moving we took a few extra steps to ensure our home and pets were properly prepared.

In our household we have two Devon Rex cats named Chenille and Shinobi. We love our critters, but realized that selling our home was a perfect example of a situation where we had to set aside all biases and critically look at our pets, their habits and how this would affect the potential sale of our home.

As I was preparing to sell my home, I remembered the last time I was a home buyer. I have vivid memories of homes that we looked at that I didn’t even want to consider because the odor of pet waste was so prevalent that it made my gag reflex kick in. Those memories motivated me to take steps to avoid anything close to this happening with our home selling. Here were some of the steps I took to protect my animals and ensure a positive viewing experience for interested buyers:

  1. Ensured all odors were dealt with on a consistent basis. We own an air purifier that keeps the air fresh at all times. We ran it constantly in the basement where the animals’ litter boxes were located.
  2. Did a quick overview of the house and inspected potential cleanup areas right before an open house or showing. I would run around the house before a showing and make sure all pet toys and other “bodily function issues” were cleaned up and finished with a quick sweep-up or vacuuming.
  3. Made sure that all parties viewing the home knew that we had pets and set expectations around keeping the animals indoors. We chose to put our cats in a safe room with the door closed. They had food, water and litter. We made this decision after a scary situation where one of the cats got into the attic during a winter showing. The realtor and potential buyers didn’t realize she had slipped in there. The cat was scared and cold, but OK when we finally found her hours later. We wanted to avoid further situations like that, so putting them in a safe location with a closed door helped immensely.

Shinobi “helping” us recycle as we pack for our move.

Another challenge throughout this process has been pet anxiety. I first noticed my animals exhibiting signs of anxiety as we started having open houses and showings. It increased after the sale of the home once I started packing. I contacted a friend who is a vet technician that cares for our pets when we travel and asked her for advice. She suggested that if the symptoms seemed drastic enough, I could consider administering prozac for the cats. If the symptoms seemed minimal there was also calming treats or herbal supplements designed for the purpose of relieving stress in animals. I wasn’t prepared to put my cats on prozac, so I tried some of the other products. Here is the outcome of the products I tried:

Pet Natural Calming Cat Soft Chews seemed to work, but only if I fed them the maximum number of chews recommended per the packaging. One of my cats was on a diet at that time and the added caloric intake of all of the treats just wasn’t going to work for her needed weight loss. Additionally, the cost to calm two cats would have been ridiculous because the packages had so few treats included and I knew that our selling/moving process could take multiple months or even years.

Nutri-Vet Ease Soft Chews were rejected by both of my cats. Shinobi, my male cat, is not a fussy eater at all and he wouldn’t even attempt to eat these treats, while Chenille, the cat on the diet who begs for food all of the time, sniffed these treats and walked away. Because of their reaction I don’t have any idea of Nutri-Vet Ease effectiveness.

Animal Relief Formula by Flower Essence Services: I found this product at my local co-op and it was recommended by one of the employees working there. The product is a liquid and it’s in a small, glass spray bottle. The instructions say you should spray it on your hand and rub the liquid onto your animals ears, or spray it into an area in the home where they will be spending time. I chose the first application and my cats willingly let me rub their ears and didn’t seem to mind the floral scent it left behind.  Normally, when we try to apply any liquid to our animals they immediately begin to clean themselves, attempting to remove the foreign product that has just been applied. With the Animal Relief Formula they didn’t do anything and instead seemed to mellow out about 5-10 minutes after the liquid had been rubbed into their ears. I did have to apply it every couple of hours to ensure their relief continued.

When we got to the duplex, I continued to use the Animal Relief Formula for a week or two, until the cats seemed to calm down and settle into the new living space. They are now completely at home and love all of the windows they get to look out of on our second floor apartment.

Practicing for the long car ride in their new cat carrier.

Our next big “adventure” for the cats is our cross-country drive to Portland, OR.  I’m most nervous about this because, like most cats, ours hate being in a moving vehicle.  I’ve done of a couple of things in anticipation. I have set up an appointment with my vet a couple of weeks before the move to discuss calming and sedation options. I have also set out the new cat carrier in which they will ride. It’s in the livingroom to get them comfortable with the new carrier.

I wonder if anyone out there has any experience with this type of situation that they could share. We’re planning for about four full days of driving and I would love any advice you can share with me.

Once we get through the drive I’ll let everyone know what I tried and how it worked. Stay tuned for more stories about the Devons, Chenille and Shinobi and their cross-country journey.





Enjoying Summer and Planning the Next Move

It has been a little over four months since we sold our house, moved, and started renting the upper level of a duplex. It’s been an interesting experience thus far and lately I’ve been dealing with some conflicting feelings. I’m still enjoying my time off from work and grateful that I get to coordinate the last parts of our move and enjoy the summer without any work commitments, but I’m also very excited to move to Portland, Oregon and explore the next phase of my life.

I feel a bit like I’m on a long vacation that involves many connecting flights to get to the final destination. It goes a bit like this: You rush to the airport and then wait for the flight to leave. Then you get off the airplane, rush to the next gate for the next leg of your flight, only to wait again for the plane to be ready, etc., etc.. Our life mimics that a bit right now. It goes a bit like this: We rush to pack, sell our things and find a new place to live. We live in a duplex for six months and then rush to pack, sell our things and find a new place to live, etc., etc.. We expect to go through this process at least 3-4 times in the next year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining, and my excitement runs deep as we make this change. I am reminded frequently that this is a long and arduous process and I understand more fully why it is so uncommon for people to act on a dream that includes moving to another state.

The great news is that we have secured a rental home in Portland, OR.  Our situation is a bit unique because we have most of our belonging in storage, so we were looking for a home that was fully furnished.  I started by looking online at executive housing in the area and found that you truly pay a premium.  I decided after looking at the prices that this would definitely be “Plan B”. My “Plan A” was to start searching on Craigslist and see if there were any furnished options that would meet our needs.  There were a few, but not many that were advertising for the latter part of summer. There was one that kept catching my eye, but the ad clearly stated “no animals”.  Since we have the two cats, I initially bypassed this house, but the more I looked and kept seeing the ad I decided to take a chance and contacted the owner. I sent a short email explaining our situation (selling our home, following our dream, etc.) and included that we have two cats. I got a phone call that same night from the owner and she was very interested in renting her home to us. We talked on the phone with the her, did a Skype session to see the house and traded emails back and forth until we came to an agreement that we would rent her home.

Sunnyside Piazza- Annual street painting event down the block from the house we are renting in Portland, OR.

Over Memorial Weekend, we took a quick trip to Portland to meet our future landlady and felt confident that we had made the right decision.  We will be renting in the SE part of Portland just a couple of miles outside of downtown. It reminds us a lot of NE Minneapolis with lots of old homes and a nice selection of restaurants and shops within walking distance. We got a tour of the house, signed our lease and got the key.

The next step for me is to start liquidating all of the things we’ve been living with in the duplex and packing up the things we will be shipping to Portland. Even though we have been talking about this move for a long time, suddenly the days seem to be speeding by and there isn’t enough time to do all of the moving activities and see friends/family to say “until we meet again.” It is definitely a bittersweet time, but Portland here we come!

Artful Dreamer

I’ve always felt a strong to connection to the writing of Henry David Thoreau. Even as a young teen I can remember quoting lines from “Walden” and getting strange looks from my classmates. I suppose it was a bit strange to hear a fourteen year old saying, “I want to suck the marrow out of life.” But even in my teens the words resonated with me and felt like such a great reminder to how life is short and we need to live it to the fullest.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Now as my husband, Randy and I prepare to move to Portland, OR, and are currently living in a small apartment with a tiny portion of our belongings, I feel a draw to start reading Thoreau again. The simplicity of our living and the pursuit of our dreams trigger memories of Thoreau’s words and why I love them.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Dreams Do Come True and the words of Thoreau align with this idea in a very active fashion. Here is another of my favorite quotes:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

It is with this quote in mind that I’m pleased to announce the evolution of my blog, now renamed: Artful Dreamer. The new website will continue to document the journey and adventure to the Pacific Northwest, but I believe it more aptly describes how this dream is being pursued.

A dream is an idea and only and idea, unless you take action and start planning how to make it a reality. One specific story comes to mind that motivates me to make my dreams reality. The story is from my trip to China in 2002. I was on a tour bus making its way to the Great Wall of China and talking to a woman on the same tour.  She was in her eighties and it had been her dream for over sixty years to walk the Great Wall of China. I could hear the excitement in her voice as she shared this dream with me. I could also hear a bit of sadness in her voice, since she had waited so long to make her dream a reality. She was now in failing health and unsure if she would have the strength to physically walk on the wall. As we arrived and unloaded the bus, I watched her start the trek up the stairs. She only made it a few short steps and needed to go back to the bus to wait. She was grateful to see the wall, but her sadness was evident as she sat on the bus and watched others start the climb onto the Great Wall.

It reminds me of how important it is to keep making my dreams reality. Life is short and I want to experience all I can before it’s too late. Like Thoreau, I am an Artful Dreamer and you can become one too.

What are your dreams? Are you taking action to make them realities? Start today. Share some of your own dreams in the comments below. Another easy first step is to write your dreams down in a notebook or save them on your computer. Who knows? You may guide your own dreams to an ingenious end.

Preparing to Sell Your Home

Many have asked me how I planned for my successful move. They are thinking about trying to sell their home and overwhelmed with where they should start their preparations. I thought I would use this post to share how I prepared our home for its sale.

I believe it takes three things to successfully sell your home: 1) Pricing it appropriately 2) Connecting with the right buyers 3) Presentation of your home. You have the ability to control two of the items listed above: price and the presentation. Price will be determined by market, the urgency you feel to move and through the guidance of your realtor. I’d like to focus on number three: Presentation. Unless you hire a professional staging company to help you, the presentation of your home rests on your shoulders. If you have the time and skill and don’t want invest the money in a professional, you can start the process yourself. Here is the process I used during the prep for our home sale.

To give a little context on our situation, we had lived in our four bedroom, 2 bathroom, home for almost 10 years. Because of all of our hobbies and love of antiques and decorating, we had a lot of collections, furniture and miscellaneous items to stage before listing—we also had some necessary small repairs and updates to freshen the look of the home and yard.

Step One: Making a List
As a family, start a list of all of the things that will need to be fixed, repaired, cleaned, replaced, painted, moved or packed. There are a number of things to think about as you start this step.

  • Where is the clutter?
  • What is broken?
  • When is the last time the furniture, rugs/carpets were cleaned?
  • When is the last time you cleaned all the windows in your home?
  • What is the condition of the blinds or drapes?
  • How easy is it to move around in the rooms?
  • Is there too much furniture or not enough furniture?
  • Are there family photos or other personal items that should be stored?

One activity that helps is to grab a pen and notebook and walk around the inside of your home and write down every item you see that should be improved. Then, take your notebook and do the same thing around the outside of your home.

You must have a critical eye during this process.  I use the expression “blind to the ugly” to describe how after you live in a space for awhile, you stop noticing “ugly” things in your home like cracks on the wall, chairs that need new upholstery, rooms that need to be repainted, scale that has accumulated on faucets, trees that are overgrown or cluttered areas. When you decide to sell your house, you have to start looking at your indoor and outdoor space like a stranger would—find all of the perceived and real faults, no matter how small and make a determination of what you will or will not be improving or changing.

You also need to think about the current trends in home decorating. If you don’t know these, it’s as easy as going to the library and looking at a magazine that has decorating in it. Maybe it’s neutral wall colors, stainless steel appliances or hardwood floors. It doesn’t mean you have to change everything, but this will help you determine how much you want to change, which may ultimately influence the price at which you list your home. If you are planning on asking for the highest price you can for your home, the buyers will expect that everything is updated and move-in ready. These are a few of the ways that you have a critical eye throughout this process.

If you don’t feel that you can objectively look at your home this way, you must have a friend or professional help you with this step. This is essential for creating your list of things you need to ensure the best presentation of your home.

Some of the things that made the list for our house in step one were: painting the outside of house and garage, having the windows and carpets professionally cleaned, replacing the cement floor in the garage, boxing up a couple hundred books and storing them and their bookshelves in the attic, and de-cluttering every closet within the house.

Example list from Reminders App for iPhone/iPad

Step Two: Get Organized
Take your list and sort it. At this point you can designate a notebook to keep your lists, use Excel or some other list application. We used the Reminders App on the iPhone and created multiple shared lists for the family. Start with broad categories like Outdoors and House and then get more specific like Master Bedroom, Family Room, Garage and Garden. Once you have your rooms or areas listed, you can put all of the specific tasks, improvements or projects needing completion.  Make sure your lists of projects are accessible to anyone in the family that will be adding or completing activities from the lists. Encourage everyone involved to add items as they think of them or as they see things walking through the house or outside.

Step Three: Determine Scope
Now that you’ve got your initial lists you will need to decide if you are going to complete all of the items you listed. If there are major improvements that you do not want to complete, then you will take them off the list, but be aware that these may become a negotiating item during the sale of your home. These might include things like: painting indoors or outdoors, landscaping, concrete repairs, plumbing or electrical repairs. If you decide to invest in the completion of these types of items, you need to determine if you have the time and expertise to complete these projects yourself, or if you will be hiring outside help. You should also try and determine how much time you will be able to invest in all of the items needing completion.

Once you have completed the first three steps, you should be able to determine approximately how long it will take you to finish the tasks and be ready to list your house for sale. Now you have a goal for completing all of the work that needs to get done.

Step Four: Contact an Agent
Once you have set your goal, you should connect with a realtor to get advice and/or confirm the work you are planning to complete. If you have any questions about the changes or improvements you plan to make, you should plan to have your realtor visit and view the property with you. We reached out to our realtor, John Lynden of Lynden Realty to share with him our decision to list the house and some of the work we needed to complete before we were ready. He confirmed our plans and timeline.

Step Five: Get To Work
Begin working on the completion of your projects.

If you follow the steps above it will guarantee you are on the right path to successfully preparing your home for sale. Good luck!